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Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is leaving in January

Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield is leaving in January


Butterfield has helped co-found Slack and Flickr, and now he’s leaving Salesforce.

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A photo Illustration of Stewart Butterfield
Photo illustration by William Joel / The Verge | Photography by Joel Saget / AFP via Getty Images

Slack CEO and co-founder Stewart Butterfield is leaving Salesforce in January, reports Business Insider. Butterfield helped co-found Slack in 2013 after Glitch — a social MMORPG — was shut down and Butterfield turned his focus to workplace communication tools instead. Butterfield is leaving Salesforce, the company that acquired Slack for $27.7 billion last year, after less than two years at Salesforce.

News of Butterfield’s departure, announced in a Slack channel, comes just days after Salesforce CEO Bret Taylor also announced he’s leaving the company. “This has nothing to do with Bret’s departure,” Butterfield wrote in a Slack channel. “Planning has been in the works for several months! Just weird timing.”

Lidiane Jones, currently executive VP & GM of digital experiences clouds, will take over as Slack CEO in January. Salesforce acquired Slack last year to add to the company’s suite of enterprise software, but it maintained the brand, functionality, and leadership. Slack hasn’t changed much in the past year as a result of the acquisition, but as Butterfield departs, it’s likely we’re about to witness a new era of Slack and potentially deeper integration into Salesforce products.

Lidiane Jones is the next Slack CEO

“Stewart is an incredible leader who created an amazing, beloved company in Slack,” says Salesforce spokesperson Cheyenne King in a statement to The Verge. “He has helped lead the successful integration of Slack into Salesforce and today Slack is woven into the Salesforce Customer 360 platform. Stewart also was instrumental in choosing Lidiane Jones as the next Slack CEO to lead it into its next chapter. Lidiane has a strong background in customer and enterprise tech and has been among Salesforce’s leadership for over three years. We’re grateful for Stewart and excited for Lidiane as she takes over the reins of Slack.”

Butterfield led Slack to the type of success that’s not always guaranteed in Silicon Valley while battling giants like Microsoft and navigating the explosion of remote work during the pandemic. In an interview with The Verge in 2020, Butterfield said “Microsoft is perhaps unhealthily preoccupied with killing us” just months before Slack filed an anti-competitive complaint against Microsoft with the European Commission.

Butterfield also previously co-founded Flickr, the photo sharing site acquired by Yahoo. All eyes will now be on wherever Butterfield heads next or if he’s planning to return to his startup roots. In a message to employees, Butterfield says he’s “going to work on some personal projects” in the meantime.

Here’s Stewart Butterfield’s full Slack message to employees:

In early January, I’ll be stepping down as CEO of Slack. Also, both Tamar and Jonathan Prince are leaving. Slack will have a new CEO: Lidiane Jones. This is good: Lidiane is amazing. More on this below.

(FWIW, this has nothing to do with Bret’s departure. Planning has been in the works for several months. Just: weird timing!)

Tamar and Jonathan arrived within a month of each other at a critical point in Slack’s development as a company. They were both more experienced than me and taught me a lot (probably more than I know, even now). They helped us grow up. Their individual contributions as leaders were indispensable but they were also team players and helped make us an all-star executive team. Their impact will be felt for as long as Slack is around.

Cal remains the CTO which is good because he’s plainly, no exaggeration, the best CTO in the world. And, Slack’s own Noah Weiss is the new Chief Product Officer. In his seven years (!) as part of Slack he’s led product development in nearly every area at one point or another, and the ambition of our product strategy owes a lot to his leadership. He’s going to keep the bar high, and then keep pushing it higher. Congrats, Noah.

So: why?? Well, we started this company 13.5 years ago (though it’s “only” been 10 years since we started development of Slack itself). It’s been a long and wild run. I am not going off to do something entrepreneurial. Though it may sound hackneyed, I actually am going to spend more time with my family. We have a new baby coming in January. Can I tell you something? I fantasize about gardening. So, I’m going to work on some personal projects, focus on health, and try to learn as many new things as I can.

So, about this Lidiane. You’re going to love her. She’s pragmatic and practical, insightful, passionate, creative, kind, and curious. She’s right at that little diamond-shaped heart in the four-circle Venn diagram of Smart, Humble, Hardworking, and Collaborative. Before Salesforce she spent four years leading product at Sonos where she fell in love with Slack. She has a deep respect for our approach to product, our customer obsession, and our unique culture. She’s one of us.

She also has enormous credibility inside of Salesforce and will be an effective advocate for Slack’s business, customers, and people. She earned that credibility as an EVP & GM, leading Marketing Cloud, Commerce Cloud, and Flow through major technology and business transformations. This will be extremely helpful for us over the next few years.

Obviously, there are more details here, but I’m going to let each leader talk about it in their own words. I know this is pretty big news but, if you’ve known me for a while, you’ll know that I just don’t say things I don’t believe. I can’t. So you can trust me when I say that everything is going to be okay. Lidiane, Cal, and Noah already have a great chemistry and are committed to our collective and individual success. Bob is still our Chief Sales & Success Officer, Michael Peachey our SVP of Marketing, Stephen Lee our SVP of Legal, David Ard our SVP of Employee Success, and Robby Kwok is going to keep on Chiefing the Staff for Lidiane.

Thank you for everything. I cannot begin to express my gratitude and it wasn’t till I got to this line that I started crying, so I can tell that’s the heart of it for me. Thank you ❤️

Update, December 5th 1:35PM ET: Article updated with Salesforce statement and Stewart’s full Slack message to employees.